I still remember I was a child of six or seven and I felt sort of satisfaction when on my complaining to elders this or that kid was punished for this or that wrong done by him. In school, I was known for my unsparing habit of constantly watching everyone lest he should be doing something untoward. They named me a “watch-dog.” It was only when I started learning English that I came to know that “watch-dog” is something positive. At about the same time, I was now 14, I found out that by nature I was a “watch-dog.” I was happy to relish this nature of mine instead of hiding or bringing it under control; I devoted myself wholly to bringing others to be in my control.
Thus by the time I was in college, I was a full-blown watch-dog. I was always looking for something which could be transformed into an issue. Somebody was reading a bad novel; somebody was reading other than the text book things while in the class; somebody was having in his pocket indecent pictures or cards; somebody was talking bad things about this or that teacher; such things were my favorite “bones of contention” to cause a bout of punishments to the deviants.
Reaching university was really a fun. I was popular and came to be leading my ilk. We were a good many and thought of organizing ourselves really into a moral watch-dog. So were we: ‘The Watchers’ - our group was named. Though, no doubt, we were spies also, as most of our ways were secret. I am convinced two heads are better than one; our group consultations were quite fruitful. We were five, I mean the core group. It was at this time that we thought of expanding our operations from beyond the university affairs.
Our first target was newspapers. We made it a mission of ours to scan daily all the contents of the papers, underline, cut and get its photocopies and distribute to the teachers and students of our department. With time, we added other departments to our distribution list. This created no stir. All went well, to our dismay. Again one fertile mind suggested writing letters to the editors of those papers printing objectionable material. Now and then a few letters were published, and generated one or two letters in response. We were happy our mission was appreciated by some readers of the papers.
However, that was not what we wanted as the outcome of The Watchers’ efforts. Everything that we pointed out as objectionable in the papers continued appearing as usual. How come that? If it was objectionable it must be banned, simply banned. Once again in a strategic meeting of The Watchers the issue was deliberated and of course as I was the head, my “Direct Action” proposal was accepted.
Actually, the resistance against this proposal did not focus on the substance, but they had reservations as to its implementation. The Watchers needed enough human resource to carry out this “Direct Action” to show results. No doubt, we were not that popular to attract wide support from the students, let alone the teachers from various departments.
As I took the responsibility to make our Direct Action a success, I set myself on a hunt for some sensitive issue to make use of. I poured myself into it, spent days and nights scanning once again the recent newspaper files that The Watchers maintained. Finally, I got a statement by an American state department official that could prove to be good bait. I don’t remember what its exact wording was, it said something like that, ‘Pakistanis would sell their mothers to come to settle in the US.’
As a preparatory measure, we got this statement photocopied in hundreds and distributed throughout the university. We saw many a student and teacher was angry at that. We wrote a rejoinder to that statement, a provoking one, denouncing the US and our own government as a follower of US dictations. This leaflet inflamed a lot to flare up. It was time to hit the nail. The Watchers announced a protest call to stage a demo and procession to the National Assembly building. A series of press releases were issued to media exhorting people to participate in large numbers to protect their national honor. We were surprised by the number of people volunteering to help us in this good work.
Our demands included severing both diplomatic and trade relations with the US. Again, it was a big surprise when some high-ups from the government contacted me to discuss the matters. They wanted me not to push for the demands of severing the relations with US, and promised that the government would support their cause of protecting national honor and issue a statement asking that US official to withdraw his statement.
Our Direct Action call went very successful. We were in the newspapers, and known to all. I remember after that many of our objections raised with the newspapers were heard and accommodated, and the editors/owners of those papers started fearing our nuisance value, as they dubbed it. It helped me make a network of contacts with influential people. I was now a connected person. Lest you think I was an opportunist, no, not at all. Let me clarify. I never thought of such things. I was a watch-dog at my heart, an ardent watch-dog. Actually, a new horizon opened before my eyes. When I complete my studies here, if I go to US, I will be in a better position to fulfill my role of a watch-dog, I thought.
So it materialized. A few years later I was in US, and then again after a few years I was well off to spare time and money to do my natural job, watch-dogging. I was not in Pakistan but I kept my eyes focused on what was happening there and equally on what was happening world over which could have something to do with Pakistan. That gave me immense pleasure to guard my country and countrymen from going astray.
Now after the banning of the Facebook and Youtube I feel extraordinarily passionate about the watch-dog living inside me. I am feeling nostalgic how I brought this watch-dog up, how I institutionalized it into The Watchers. Alas, in my absence The Watchers could not survive long. But now I see how many The Watchers have sprung up in Pakistan. The courts too are playing The Watchers. I am happy how people campaigned against the Facebook, and finally got it banned.
Here my colleagues argue with me why ask government to ban this or that site for this or that ‘offence,’ why we people do not behave freely and responsibly: if we feel, for instance, that Facebook or some other network/website has done something that is offensive to us we should better boycott it, we should put an end to our account on it, we should abandon using it, why we want it to be banned. They say it is just unintelligible. They say I and others of my ilk actually derive mean pleasure out of such bannings. They say we are not free and responsible people. We are governmental beings, sort of GIs.
Let them cry wolf. We should not be distracted by such criticism. I remember one of my college teachers advised me: Don’t be a watch-dog for others, be your own watch-dog! I could not forget this line, but I never heeded it. We should be resolute. Our final achievement will be the banning of everything we don’t like and with the banning of last such thing our mission will be accomplished. You know after that there will be no need to watch-dog anything!